Judge Clarence Thomas labels Washington “horrible” and pushes back on the “nasty” of critics

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas repeatedly pushed back on his critics during remarks Friday at a judicial conference in Alabama, complaining about what he described as the “nasty” and “lies” directed against him and calling Washington a “horrible place ‘ mentioned.

When asked if his jurisprudence required a certain amount of courage, Thomas said he didn’t consider himself courageous — especially compared to military personnel, firefighters and people who defuse bombs. Thomas said he was just doing his job.

“When you’re in Washington, you have to get used to especially people being reckless,” said Thomas, a conservative and the court’s top staffer. “They don’t necessarily bomb you, but they bomb your reputation, your good name or your honor. And that’s not a crime, but they can do just as much damage that way.”

Speaking at the 11th Conference of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Point Clear, Alabama, Thomas argued that it would be a disservice to those soldiers and first responders “not to sit at my desk and make decisions with a lifetime commitment which we know are the right ones’. decisions.”

Although Thomas did not speak directly about a series of ethics reports that have plagued him for months, he repeatedly returned to his critics without prompting from U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who moderated the discussion.

“My wife and I, the last two or three years – just the nastiness and the lies – have just been unbelievable,” Thomas said.

Thomas and his wife Ginni have been the target of much criticism in recent years. Several critics of Thomas, including Democratic members of Congress, have called on him to withdraw from Supreme Court cases related to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol over his wife’s efforts to influence the 2020 presidential election. to undo former President Donald Trump. Trump’s favor.

Ginni Thomas has admitted to attending Trump’s rally before the attack on the Capitol. Judge Thomas has declined this year to recuse himself from cases related to the Jan. 6 attack, including a blockbuster case involving Trump’s claims of absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for his efforts to overturn the election results.

Thomas has also faced criticism for accepting private jet trips and luxury vacations from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, first reported by ProPublica. In response to the backlash, Thomas updated his financial disclosure forms and the Supreme Court adopted a code of conduct for the first time last year.

At one point on Friday, Thomas told a story about a walk he took with a friend before taking a side trip.

“That was before they started attacking my friends,” Thomas said. “I hope I have a few more.”

As he has done in the past, Thomas also spared little criticism of Washington DC.

“I think you’ll find, especially in Washington, that people pride themselves on being terrible,” Thomas said at one point.

The comment caused laughter in the room until Thomas continued.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a horrible place,” Thomas said, noting that he enjoyed visiting other places where people “don’t take pride in doing harmful things just because they have the capacity to do so.”

Thomas, 75, also appeared to regret a loss of confidence within the Supreme Court, telling the conference that the stunning leak of a draft opinion on abortion in 2022 would not have happened when he joined the court in 1991. It wasn’t the first time Thomas has made these points — he once likened the leak to “disloyalty” — but his comments Friday suggested that the fallout from the leak of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is still top of mind. could be on the agenda.

“We may have been a dysfunctional family, but we were a family,” Thomas said of the court when he first joined in 1991. “It would be unthinkable that anyone would leak an opinion from the court or do anything to deliberately harm each other. .”

Thomas was also the latest judge in recent weeks to raise concerns about the Supreme Court’s dockets, the process the court uses to handle emergency motions. That role has come under intense criticism in recent years, in part because the court often decides on the requests at short notice, usually without oral arguments and often with orders that do not indicate how the justices voted.

“I think there is some concern among my colleagues — certainly me — because it short-circuits our process,” Thomas said. “The way we’re doing it now, I don’t think, is a thorough way to address very, very difficult issues.”

Returning to his critics, Thomas suggested that the lesson he had learned from the past year of controversy was that he would not respond with “trouble for trouble.”

“You have a number of choices. You can’t stop people from doing horrible things or saying horrible things,” Thomas said.

But, he said, he had “come to accept the fact that they can’t change you unless you let them.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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